Ten Things We Learned Monday at Patriots Training Camp
|08.06.12 at 2:34 pm ET|
FOXBORO — It was a picture perfect morning for another up-tempo practice at Patriots training camp. The workout lasted just over 90 minutes in full pads, the third straight day of full pads for most of the squad. The next time the Patriots take the field, they will finally have another team on the other end as the Saints visit Tuesday for the first of two joint practices outside Gillette before their preseason game Thursday night inside the stadium.
The notable absentees from Monday included linebacker Brandon Spikes, offensive linemen Kyle Hix and Darrion Weems. Hix and Weems both left early on Sunday.
Also missing again were Spencer Larsen, Matt Kopa, Tracy White, Visanthe Shiancoe, Jake Ballard and Jonathan Fanene.
In shorts were cornerback Derrick Martin, tight end Daniel Fells,, offensive linemen Logan Mankins and Sebastian Vollmer, safety James Ihedigbo, defensive linemen and Rob Brace and Myron Pyror, rookie cornerback Alfonzo Denard, and tackle Markus Zusevics .
Here are nine other things we learned from Day 10 of training camp:
In change between the tackles, Dan Connolly got extensive work at the right guard position on the first unit, joining center Ryan Wendell, right tackle Marcus Cannon, left guard Donald Thomas and left tackle Nate Solder. Dan Koppen again found himself on the second team offensive line, centering a unit that including right tackle Dustin Waldron, right guard Derrick Dennis (sporting Robert Gallery‘s old No. 72), left guard Jeremiah Warren and left tackle Nick McDonald.
The Patriots worked with three visiting NFL replacement officials in practice and at least two procedure penalties were called on the first team offensive unit, including one with Tom Brady and company backed inside their own 15. Bill Belichick stopped practice and went into the huddle and gave the unit a talk.
There were some good battles in one-on-one tackling drills, including a nice, clean shot by safety Malcolm Williams on newly-minted tight end Alex Silvestro, as Williams wrapped him up at the waist and drove him to the ground. Ross Ventrone stuck with the speedy Wes Welker on another good battle while Aaron Hernandez eluded Tavon Wilson.
The defense continues to look a step ahead of the offense as they consistently displayed the ability to break up the offense’s rhythm in down-and-distance situations. Brady looked for Brandon Lloyd on a route near the far sideline and Ras-I Dowling stepped up and knocked down the pass on a third down situation. On another play, Brady looked deep for Julian Edelman on a post route, only to have Sergio Brown get his hand on it and knock it away.
HERNANDEZ LOOKS LIKE A GO-TO:
Brady continues to look a lot in the direction of Aaron Hernandez this camp, making it a priority to establish a good connection between the two. After Sunday’s conversation following a red zone misfire, Brady came right back on Monday morning and looked Hernandez’ way on several routes over the deep middle, on intermediate routes. Hernandez has looked very good so far in camp.
After Sunday’s miscues, Brady was given the chance at quick redemption as Belichick put the Patriots back in hurry-up mode right at the beginning of practice. Brady marched the team down the field with connections to Hernandez and Julian Edelman before finding Wes Welker on wheel route on the right side for a score. The first team also featured a good amount of Danny Woodhead as a feature back, something to look for this preseason as a possible alternative to Stevan Ridley. Both Woodhead and Ridley got reps inside the 5-yard line and both found the end zone on runs between the tackles. One of Brady’s sharpest plays of the day came on a red zone pass to Rob Gronkowski in the back of the end zone for a touchdown.
The defense began to show a few more looks to the offense in Monday’s practice. With Brandon Spikes not at practice, Jerod Mayo was moved to the weakside linebacker spot while rookie Dont’a Hightower was moved from weak side to inside. Rob Ninkovich continued to man the outside while Vince Wilfork and Kyle Love worked on two-down schemes, with rookie defensive end Chandler Jones off his hands on the right side. The Patriots also featured some nickel packages for the first time as Devin McCourty and Ras-I Dowling get extensive looks on the corners and Kyle Arrington played the “star” or slot defensive back position.
SLIP AND SLIDE DAY:
In an annual tradition, rookies had bad-weather ball protection skills reinforced on “slip and slide” day at training camp. Vince Wilfork took over hose duties this year from Tom Brady and doused the grass and first-year players with water as they attempted to hold onto the ball. The drill happened at the beginning of practice, just after 9 a.m.
In what is likely the final rotation of kickoff returners for the Saints in the preseason opener this Thursday, Danny Woodhead and Shane Vereen were back deep fielding kickoffs. Also getting return work in were Stevan Ridley and Donte’ Stallworth. Jeremy Ebert, a longshot to make the team, was also deep for kickoffs and could see some work this preseason.